Janet Wagner

Philological Library, University Library, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

E-mail: janet.wagner@fu-berlin.de



Let’s meet online!


Idea-Café events organized by the German Green Library Network

The German Green Library Network stands for networking, information and exchange between libraries and also with other cultural and educational institutions.

It is very important to us to find out which topics and concrete offers on sustainability, environmental and resource protection or climate justice are realised in and through libraries. Especially in the area of events, there are many cooperations with local partners and the institution of libraries that can be inspiring for other libraries.

Our network therefore actively and permanently researches examples: in the area of social media, in specialist library literature, in video portals and not least also in personal exchange. We regularly present national and international examples in the social media. [1]

Figure 1 Facebook post May 2021


For regular exchange, people met before 2020 in the framework of a “Stammtisch” (regulars’ table) in the Berlin area. With the onset of the Corona pandemic, we received enquiries as to whether the network could also organise regular, virtual exchange, regardless of where one lives. This can be easily implemented with online meetings – the format “Ideas Café Green Library” was born.

The first exchange meeting took place at the end of June 2020. Without a concrete topic, we first wanted to find out what the level of interest was and what thematic wishes there were for further meetings.

Already in October 2020, there were short input presentations on paths already taken towards sustainability in libraries at the second meeting. Two participants reported on sustainability teams at their libraries. Tim Schumann gave exciting facts about projects starting at the Heinrich Böll public library in Berlin and the cooperation with possible partners. Local associations of libraries in a federal state are an effective step towards setting common priorities. Patricia Fasheh and Susanne Brandt reported on a joint meeting with libraries from Schleswig-Holstein. (federal state in the north of Germany)

The participants in the Ideas Café came from public and academic libraries. This mixture made the exchange, which always follows the short input presentations, very valuable.

In 2021, we had set the dates and also the topics in advance in a timely manner. Through suggestions from the past idea cafés and from the network members’ own ideas, there were the following three online events:

19.05.2021: “Mask, distance, outside: outdoor offers of libraries?”

26.08.2021: “Education for sustainable development in and through libraries”.

27.10.2021 “Green IT in libraries? Sensible re-use of IT hardware”.

There were over 100 registrations for the very well attended event on 19.05. (Figure 1). In the run-up to the event, Beate Hörning had provided a useful compilation of national and international examples in an extract from the “Bibliography Green Library” maintained by the network:


It was very exciting to learn how many creative outdoor offers libraries have thought up and implemented. Inspiring were the examples of where and how readings, workshops or guided tours can be held outside the library rooms, at a distance and under applicable hygiene regulations. Many libraries have also successfully transferred read-aloud sessions, craft afternoons or picture book cinemas into online formats during the lockdown months.

Outlook 2022

The last two years have been particularly challenging for libraries worldwide. The topics of sustainability, environmental protection and resource conservation as well as health in the workplace are each a broad field in their own right, and it is not always easy to find implementations for them in one’s own library. The idea cafés of the Green Library Network are intended to encourage and facilitate the path towards this goal through exchange of experience, mutual motivation and joint reflection, and to strengthen libraries in their role as actors for sustainability.

In the meantime, the German-language Ideas Café has become very popular among librarians. The regular invitations in library mailing lists and via social media are often answered by new participants, but there are also many “repeat offenders” who are regular participants. Although many librarians attend the meetings in their spare time, we see a lot of enthusiasm and a spirit of optimism. At the end of an idea café, there is almost always a wow feeling about what libraries are already doing in the area of sustainability and also about how much potential libraries still have there.

There are already fixed dates for 2022 in February, June and autumn.

The next event will be on February 9th in 2022. The Green Library Network invited Debora Messerli from Switzerland to speak about her bachelor thesis. The title of this event is:

“From the ‘library of things’ and the ‘reading dog’ to rainwater tanks and solar systems – Debora Messerli’s catalog of measures for implementing the 2030 Agenda in libraries”.

Debora Messerli from St. Gallen (Switzerland) has compiled an impressive catalog of measures to communicate the 2030 Agenda for public and academic libraries in her bachelor thesis 2021.

This work is based on precise analyses of operational documents, websites and social media channels of libraries in German-speaking countries.

The catalog of measures includes best practice examples with 45 ideas that have already been tested in practice.

For June 2022 we are planning to have an event about “libraries and gardens”.


[1] Facebook: facebook.com/NetzwerkGrueneBibliothek; Twitter: https://twitter.com/NetzGrueneBib; Web: www.netzwerk-gruene-bibliothek.de